Best Ice Cream Maker

Last Updated: Aug 25, 2020 @ 10:56 am.  What is the best ice cream maker? To decide, we tried out 7 different ice cream makers and tasted batches of ice cream (yes, it was a tough job—but someone had to do it). What was easiest to use? Most fun for a project to do with kids? For serious ice cream enthusiasts? What about soft serve? Here are the winners.

FYI: Since 1994, we’ve been rating and reviewing products for the home, families and children. We don’t take money or freebies from brands we review. Our work is 100% reader-supported, so we appreciate you reading this article!

Best Overall

Cuisinart ICE-30BC Pure Indulgence 2-Quart Automatic Frozen Yogurt, Sorbet, and Ice Cream Maker

Easy to use, clean. And affordable!
Loved this maker, which churns out ice cream in just 30-40 minutes (not including prep time). Excellent! Simple controls, recipe book. Caveats: only 2 qt. capacity, loud, batter must be pre-chilled.

Best Overall: Cuisinart ICE-30BC Pure Indulgence 2-quart Automatic Frozen Yogurt, Sorbet and Ice Cream Maker

We’ve owned this ice cream maker for 5 years and it is a workhorse—it does an excellent job at making ice cream and frozen yogurt! Super easy to use, it works automatically (no hand cranking) and takes about 30 to 40 minutes to make one batch (2 quarts).

Yes, we tried out other ice cream makers (seven in total), but still think the Cuisinart ICE-30BC is the best overall for most folks. That said, there are some significant drawbacks (see below) that make it less ideal for parties and other uses.

What We Liked

• Easy to use. You freeze a double-insulated freezer bowl and then put that into the maker. Pour in batter and turn it on! 30 to 40 minutes later, you have ice cream.

• Recipe book included.

• Gelato! Yes, this maker can do gelato.

• Spout allows you to add fruit, nuts and more.

• Affordable.

• Easy to clean.

• Stainless steel housing.

What Needs Work

• Loud. That’s probably our biggest dislike with this ice cream maker—it is LOUD!

• Can’t make batch after batch. The freezer bowl has to be kept at zero degrees to work well. Hence, you can’t make more than one batch at a time.

• Batter must be pre-chilled. That takes another hour or so, especially if you are using melted chocolate.

• Not great for parties. This maker only has a two quart capacity . . . so probably not the best choice for parties.

• Eventually bowl has to be replaced. Yep, the freezer bowl can crack or break over time—we had to replace ours once in 5 years.

• Must have room in your freezer. Yep, the bowl takes up room in your freezer and that could be a negative if you don’t have much room. Yes, you could only freeze the bowl when you want to make ice cream . . . but that takes freezing it overnight.

• No spontaneity. As you can see from the requirements above, you can’t just take out this ice cream maker and make a batch of ice cream in 30 minutes. You have to plan in advance!

Best Budget-Friendly

Nostalgia WICM4L Electric Ice Cream Maker

Quick, 4 qt. capacity great for parties
Our favorite feature is the clear lid on this maker—you can watch progress of a batch, which only takes 20-30 minutes. Quiet and simple to use—but you must add ice and salt.

Best Budget Friendly: Nostalgia WICM4L Electric Ice Cream Maker (4 Quarts)

Yes, some ice cream makers can cost three figures—and that is a bit spendy, even for ice cream enthusiasts like ourselves. Good news: the Nostalgia WICM4L Electric Ice Cream Maker makes excellent ice cream, is easy to use and quiet—at a price that is easy on the wallet.

What We Liked

 Looks like old fashion ice cream maker. But good news: there is no hand crank—an electric motor stirs the ice cream. • Quick. Takes just 20 to 30 minutes to make a batch of ice cream.

• Large capacity at 4 quarts. That’s twice that of the Cuisinart unit we recommend above.

• Good for parties. With that larger capacity, this maker would work well for gatherings and kids parties.

• Easy to clean.

• See-through lid. We loved the clear lid, which lets you watch the progress.

• No need to pre-freeze the canister. That’s one of the big disadvantages of the Cuisinart—you must pre-freeze the bowl at 0 degrees overnight.

What Needs Work

• Have to add ice and salt.

• Shipping damage. Be sure to check this maker when it arrives to see if any parts are broken. The unit we tested was fine, but we see reports of shipping damage. Of course, that can happen with any appliance that’s shipped—it’s always best to inspect it immediately!

• Uneven freezing. Sometimes the bater will freeze on the outer wall of the cannister, but not toward the middle. That creates uneven freezing, which sometimes causes the paddle to not spin freely. To avoid this problem, you need to make sure the batter is very cold when starting. Also: you can stop the machine and scrape the sides—that isn’t fun, however.

Best Soft Serve Maker

Cuisinart ICE-45P1 Mix Serve 1.5-Quart Soft Service Ice Cream Maker

You had us at “mix-ins”!
Fun! This family-friendly maker whips up a batch of soft serve in 20-25 minutes. Three mix-in containers are kid favorites. Easy to use and clean. Downside: it is very tall and bulky.

Best Soft Serve Maker: Cuisinart ICE-45 Mix It In Soft Serve 1-1/2 Quart Ice Cream Maker

Here’s a great machine for the family—we loved how easy it was to use. The star, as far as kids go, is the mix-ins. This machine has three containers that can hold sprinkles, chips or other mix-ins. These are dispenses at the same time the ice cream drops into a cone! Fun!

What We Liked

• Simple to use. Pour in the mix in the top and hit the button to start.

• Fun as a family project.

• You had us at “mix-ins.”

• Takes 20-25 minutes for a batch. Hint: pre-cool the mixture to make it go faster.

• Removable drip tray under dispenser arm is easy to clean.

• Includes recipe book. Or you can use a pre-made mix.

• Capacity at 1.5 quarters good for several cones, which have their own holder.

What Needs Work

• Tall, large footprint. This thing takes up a good amount of counter space.

• Lots of pieces that can get lost. 

• Pricey. 

• Can’t make batch after batch. The freezer bowl has to be kept at zero degrees to work well. Hence, you can’t make more than one batch at a time.

• Prep time to pre-chill the batter. That takes another hour or so, especially if you are doing a homemade recipe.

• Not great for parties. This maker only has a 1.5 quart capacity . . . so probably not the best choice for parties.

• Eventually bowl has to be replaced. Yep, the freezer bowl can crack or break over time—we had to replace ours from the similar Cuisinart ICE-30BC once in 5 years.

• Must have room in your freezer. Yep, the bowl takes up room in your freezer and that could be a negative if you don’t have much room. Yes, you could only freeze the bowl when you want to make soft serve ice cream . . . but that takes freezing it overnight (Cuisinart says a minimum of 8 hours at zero degrees).

• No spontaneity. As you can see from the requirements above, you can’t just take out this ice cream maker and make a batch of ice cream quickly. You have to plan in advance!

Best For Enthusiasts

Whynter ICM-15LS Automatic Ice Cream Maker

Great for parties, makes multiple batches
If you are serious about ice cream, this machine is worth the upgrade—no need to pre-freeze bowls! Takes 50 minutes to churn out a batch of ice cream. Quiet and convenient.

Best For Enthusiasts: Whynter ICM-15LS Ice Cream Maker, Stainless Steel

When it’s time to take your ice cream making to the next level, we’d suggest this machine: Whynter’s ICM-15LS. No need to pre-freeze a bowl . . . this maker does all the freezing with its built-in compressor (it’s CFC-free, by the way). That makes this maker more fun and spontaneous, albeit at a price!

What We Liked

• Can make batch after batch. 

• Great for parties. Even though the capacity is 1.6 quarts, the ability to churn out batch after batch makes this a better choice for ice cream parties.

• Built-in timer.

• Takes about 50 minutes from start to finish. Starting off with a cooled mixture helps speed things along.

• Auto shut off. If the mixture freezes solid, the motor automatically turns off to prevent damage.

• Quiet. 

What Needs Work

• Directions? The unit we tested had no directions in the box—you have to go the web site to find them.

• No recipes. Some ice cream makers come with recipe books, which are handy. On the hand, you can find ice cream receipes just about anywhere!

• Heavy. This unit weighs 27 lbs.

• Pricey.

Why Trust Us

We’ve been rating and reviewing baby gear, including high chairs, since 1994. We do hands-on testing—we buy the products with our own money and evaluate with an eye toward safety, ease of use and affordability.

Here’s another key point: we don’t take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no “partnerships.” Baby Bargains is your independent and unbiased source for expert baby gear reviews.

 

Photo credit: Brooke Lark

Why Trust Us

We’ve been rating and reviewing products for the home and families since 1994. We do hands-on testing—we buy the products with our own money and evaluate with an eye toward quality, ease of use and affordability.

Here's another key point: we don't take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no "partnerships." Our work is 100% reader-supported!

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